Absolute Value

Young Adult - Social Issues
310 Pages
Reviewed on 05/15/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Anna Henrik is a writer who lives in the Twin Cities.

“I feel strongly that ABSOLUTE VALUE needs to be out in the world at this time. We live in a divided world and we need to start talking. We need to find common ground. Maybe this book can help.”

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Nate and Gabrielle are two teenagers in love, eager to start their junior year of high school. However, their lives turn upside down when Gabrielle discloses that she is pregnant with Nate's child. Struggling to process the momentous news, Nate and Gabrielle slowly try to bring their lives to a semblance of normalcy. But conflict arises when the two of them inform their respective parents, who come from vastly polarizing backgrounds. Nate comes from a conservative Christian household where the mere mention of the word abortion is taboo, while Gabrielle's divorced parents fall on the other end of the spectrum. Caught in the midst of two opposing paths, Nate and Gabrielle must now carve their own way. Sincere and heartfelt, Absolute Value is a poignant coming-of-age tale written by Anna Henrik.

Author Anna Henrik handles the sensitive issue of teenage pregnancy with a deft touch and explores its ramifications with a thoughtful approach resembling movies such as Juno or Never Maybe Sometimes Always. She captures both sides of the argument in a graceful and intelligent manner that feels authentic and sincere. The characters are portrayed in a realistic manner that makes them all the more compelling to read. Nate, Gabrielle, and their respective parents seem like real people, which gives the narrative an added sense of authenticity. I found the conflict between Nate and his parents particularly absorbing to read. Absolute Value is an enthralling read from start to finish. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with mature themes.

K.C. Finn

Absolute Value is a work of fiction in the drama genre. It is aimed at young adults and was penned by author Anna Henrik. The book follows the journey of two teenagers named Nate and Gabrielle who are a young couple still in high school. When Gabrielle realizes that she’s pregnant the initial division between the two of them is severe with Nate from a conservative pro-life family and Gabrielle not wanting her future set in stone. But as they talk the issue through and start to face the reality of it, Nate begins to realize that his family values may not be the ones he holds for himself.

It's easy to be a little wary of this novel from reading the blurb on the back; the risk of the story sliding into one-sided preaching of a particular viewpoint seems very high, and on an emotive topic such as abortion the risk grows higher. But I cannot stress enough that this initial impression is completely false, and Anna Henrik writes fairly and maturely on a difficult topic without assigning one of the two sides more moral worth than the other. Absolute Value has a dynamic cast of characters with not just differing viewpoints but valid and diverse reasoning behind those viewpoints. Whilst I doubt any one reader will read this book and find all of the characters and their views agreeable, the arguments presented by all the characters represent a real-world point of view on the abortion debate with fairness and equality. All in all, Absolute Value is a wonderfully told story about a sensitive issue that tells an authentic narrative without condemning or belittling any single voice in the discussion.

Vincent Dublado

Anna Henrik’s Absolute Value should be on the top of your young adult reading list. It is very smart and touching in its handling of a sensitive social issue—an unplanned pregnancy. High school sweethearts Nate Stanek and Gabrielle Brandt are about to start their junior year. But lately, Gabrielle has been feeling disconnected from Nate while asking herself what she is going to do. All the sneaking around that she and Nate had done now feels like a dream. She has been tormenting him and reviewing their whole relationship. But the truth is soon revealed as Nate discovers her pregnancy in the most unlikely moment: She throws up while riding a Ferris wheel. The stigma of Gabrielle’s pregnancy puts the young couple in a predicament. Gabrielle is still trying to come to terms with her parents’ divorce and now worries about her future. Nate comes from a conservative Christian family and cannot imagine how his parents would react. Gabrielle brings up the idea of abortion but that does not stand well with Nate. If an unplanned pregnancy would earn his parents’ disapproval, terminating an unborn child would get him ostracized.

Anna Henrik’s writing reflects the sentiments of her two characters, and it lends urgency to their problem. At the same time, she manages to complement candor with lightness through some funny moments. It is very rare to read a YA novel that addresses a social issue that makes you turn the pages with concern and delight. It is also rare to feel deep empathy when you read about characters and the choice they intend to make so that you also start thinking about it as well. You might find that some of the scenes are lengthy, but you can also consider it as Henrik’s way of letting you get to know Nate and Gabrielle better. As soon as you become immersed in Absolute Value, you find that the narrative flows smoothly like a stream. After reading, I found myself wishing all the best for Nate and Gabrielle, and it is highly probable that you will too.

Ruffina Oserio

Absolute Value by Anna Henrik is a gripping story of two teenagers faced with the most difficult choice of their life. Nate Stanek and Gabrielle Brandt are in a relationship, and what makes things even more exciting for them is that they are both going to attend the same high school. Nate begins to have suspicions that something is wrong as he notices changes in his girlfriend after they have been sneaking out for an entire summer. She is pregnant. And an unwanted pregnancy implies a lot, including the fact that the situation won’t sit well with Nate’s parents. Then there is the question of Gabrielle’s future, a girl who has suffered to see her parents separate. Gabrielle wants to abort the baby. But Nate thinks differently; of course, his conservative believes are pro-life. Can they find common ground and navigate through this unexpected situation while sticking with each other?

Anna Henrik portrays the world of the main characters with unusual skill, allowing readers to notice, from the very first page, the things that make young lovers tick. The characters are authentic, genuinely flawed, and believable. The plot is cleverly written and it has a compelling premise. A very young couple discovering that they are to become parents is an event powerful enough to rock their worlds and relationship and the author builds a suspenseful, interesting story on that premise. The pacing is good and Anna Henrik painstakingly creates inner worlds that reflect the challenges young people face, their worries about how it affects their relationships with others and how the world would see them. The authenticity of the characters augments the realism in the story and the author’s skillful use of streams of consciousness opens a portal through which readers get into the inner world of the characters. Absolute Value is a story of love that carries powerful lessons; it is emotionally rich and unforgettable.

Jose Cornelio

Absolute Value by Anna Henrik is an emotionally touching story that follows two young lovers facing an unwanted pregnancy, a perfect read that explores coming of age, family dynamics, and the challenging world of teenage characters. Nate Stanek is thrilled that he will be going to high school with his first girlfriend, Gabrielle Brandt. The two have spent the entire summer sneaking out, and when Nate starts noticing changes in Gabrielle, he is unsure of what to think. Then the truth eventually hits home: Gabrielle is pregnant. What makes the situation worse is that she does not want to keep the baby because so much is at stake for her, including her future and reputation. As someone born into a typical Christian family, Nate is appalled at the idea of an abortion at first, but there is more to worry about, and he just might end up subscribing to Gabrielle’s plan. What will happen to the baby and, most importantly, their relationship?

Absolute Value is a compelling story and readers cannot miss the care the author gives to the world-building, creating characters who evolve in a realistic world and building relationships that feel genuine. The inner world of the characters is skillfully explored and the way the pregnancy affects Gabrielle, who is still affected by her parents’ divorce, is impeccable. The story captures the points of view of the two key characters strongly and pulls readers into their world. This is a wonderful story with relevant moral and psychological implications. The characters are likeable, the plot is filled with strong and sensitive moments that grab the reader from the first page. The author is a skilled writer who uses a social issue to create a story that is mind-boggling and emotionally charged.